How do we improve our empathetic muscles and raise our ‘EQ’?
Nowadays, we are bombarded with articles and business interest pieces that tell us ’emotional intelligence’ or ‘EQ’ is the new ‘soft skill’ to have. People with high EQ are this decades and/or millennial generations future leaders. It makes sense in essence, people who are more attuned and able to tap into another persons feelings will be able to leverage the mutual understanding and excel. Effectively showing someone, that you understand and recognise their feelings or thoughts on a situation will win over and earn the trust and respect of more people.
Firstly, we need to understand what ’emotional intelligence’ is… Essentially, EQ is a persons ability to empathize with others through identification, evaluation, controlling and expressing ones own emotions; perceiving, and assessing others’ emotions, the use of emotions to facilitate thinking and to understand emotional meanings.
Simply put, it is everything that goes into your every interaction with another living thing. It can be recognising that your pet is acting differently, seeing your work colleague’s behaviour and presence become withdrawn or distant. EQ helps you tap into a world of non-verbal communicator and cues, a lot of the time these initial ‘clues’ are what your natural EQ picks up on, then you can interact verbally; addressing the situation or person and demonstrating a caring, open and judgement side. This is key to raising your EQ and becoming that empathetic person.
In my work, I would categorise Empathy into three different streams or rivers. Think of these streams flowing from a mountaintop and down to a sea. Put yourself as the mountain, the start point so to speak. The sea is the person or thing that is the subject in question. Finally, the three rivers/streams are the different flows of empathy working towards the sea. Each river has its own unique features, meanders and waterfalls.
The three flowing rivers we have at our disposal are:
- Emotional Empathy – Perceiving and articulating that you feel the same feeling.
- Cognitive Empathy – Assessing, formulating and articulating a solution.
- Compassionate Empathy – Sensing/Recognising a feeling and articulating it.
These three rivers run independently at times, merge at points and can sometimes be non-existent. It is your responsibility to always have at least one river that you can navigate. Work on these and make an effort in the next conversation you have, see if you can pick up on someones feelings and make them aware that you have noticed.
Packaging our new ‘EQ’ skills into a ready to use tool box. We have to add a few extra tools. This will make the whole thing easier, and it will draw people to you, by showing others that you are a genuine and understanding person. Here are my personal ‘pillars of empathy’.
- Stop Talking – People can’t convey themselves if you are taking up all the airwaves.
- Be an Active Listener – Actually be conscious and attentive when listening.
- No Judgement – Recognise and resist the urge to pass judgement. *BIG TIP*
- Avoid unnecessary interruptions – If it is of a sensitive nature take it to a quiet space.
- Share responsibility for communication – No one wants to be alone in a conversation
- Over-reacting or silly? – Understand this an issue for THEM, don’t write it off as ‘silly’.
Practice the three flowing rivers and remember to use the ‘pillars of empathy’ to aid in your conversations. All together, they will show people you are a safe port in the storm and that you can be relied upon to help. This goes for personal and business matters.
My friends laugh at me and make fun at my sometimes exhausting ‘soap opera life’. I am an agony aunt and a friendly ear to many people, in business too. As John Donne said, “No man is an island”. This still rings true today, no one can shoulder all the burdens, all of the time. It is essential that we offer ourselves and our time to be someones trusted and reliable confidant and friend.